Ephraim’s message to priests and monks
The health difficulties faced by Ephraim, prior of the Monastery of Vatopedi, who for two months battled coronavirus in the capital’s Evangelismos Hospital, should have shaken all those in the Church, including the monastic communities both on Mount Athos and elsewhere, who insist on doubting the existence of Covid-19 and are waging war on the vaccines. The monk sent many messages to the faithful in a TV interview with Cyprus’ Omega TV when he was “returned to life,” when he left the hospital. He highlighted that the priests should not expose the faithful to anti-vaccine propaganda, which he remarked should not be identified with theology and noted that the World Health Organization has shared in detail the components of the vaccine and that the scientists are hiding nothing.
“I was unvaccinated unfortunately. I was planning on getting the vaccine, but for various reasons had not yet gotten around to it at that point. We must all get vaccinated,” he said, stressing that the Church does not reject science. “We are glad that we have men of God as scientists,” he noted. The prior of the Monastery of Vatopedi is a person with significant influence both within and outside Mount Athos, but as was proven, he is a mortal and is still alive thanks to the weapons of science.
It seems however that his beseeching has gone largely unheeded on Mount Athos, where a neo-zealot movement of Covid-deniers and anti-vaxxers has taken over the monasteries (there are exceptions, thankfully enough), the skites, the monastic cells, placing at risk even the lives and health of unaware children. The case of the 70 boarders at the Athoniad Ecclesiastical Academy (middle and high school) in Karyes, who, far away from their parents, unvaccinated and still obliged to be obedient to their “elders,” who might possess obscurantist beliefs, has led to concern among the more conscientious sections of the monastic state. The Sacred Community, the relevant authority under whose jurisdiction the Athoniad lies, has a responsibility for these unwitting children who live and study in communal conditions without any protective measures, creating an easy target for the deadly virus.
The political administration, and the state in general, provides all the means to shield Mount Athos from the pandemic. It is within its grasp to protect these children. Because, if something were to happen, the parents would have every right to ask for explanations. Ephraim’s health difficulties are proof that the virus cannot be beaten with prayer, at least not with prayer alone.